Clematis vitalba

From Bugwoodwiki

Authors: control suggested by Susan Timmins of the Department of Conservation, New Zealand, ed. Tunyalee Martin, Global Invasive Species Team, The Nature Conservancy

C. vitalba
Scientific Name
Clematis vitalba
Common Names
evergreen clematis, traveller's joy, old man's beard


Clematis vitalba is a perennial, rapidly growing woody vine that can grow up to 100 ft. (30.5 m) long and completely blanket surrounding vegetation.
Leaves are compound, opposite and are usually arranged with five leaflets. Stems are woody in appearance.
Flowers are white in color and are arranged in clusters in the upper leaf axils. The blooming period occurs in summer.
Seeds have long feathery tails which ripen in fall and are easily noticeable in early winter after leaves have fallen off the trees.
Ecological Threat
Clematis vitalba is found along streams, fencelines, forest edges, and hillsides. It is native to Europe and west Asia. Be aware, Clematis vitalba is often confused with English Ivy, but in winter, Clematis vitalba looses its leaves whereas Ivy does not.


Clematis vitalba is a species of Clematis native to much of Europe, north to central England. It is a climbing plant, capable of climbing to heights of 30m where suitable tree support exists. The leaves are deciduous, 7-25 cm long, and pinnate, with five leaflets. The flowers are dull greenish-white, 2 cm diameter.



1) Cut the vines in the winter at waist height and leave the vines and foliage in the canopy to wither. In the spring spray the new growth with a mix of 2% glyphosate (e.g. RoundUp®). This is the most widely recommended method.

2) Trace the vines back to the root system, which is easiest during the winter. Either dig out the stem bases and roots (dispose by burning or desiccation by hanging away from the ground) or cut the plant above ground level and treat the stumps. Cut the base of the plant close to the ground with a straight flat cut. The cut must be horizontal so that the herbicide rests on the cut area while being absorbed. The stumps can be sprayed immediately with diesel oil or a recommended herbicide.

3) Wait for regrowth after cutting to reach at least one meter in length (full leaf stage) and then spray with a recommended herbicide. At the same time check arboreal vines for regrowth and cut any that were missed. Herbicides that may work for you:

  • Swab stump with metsulfuron methyl (Escort®, 1 gm/L), picloram (Tordon K®) 10%, or Grazon® 10%. If using Grazon® with a spray bottle for stump treatment, apply at 50 ml per 1 L water.
  • Immediately after cutting apply 20% glyphosate mixed with 80% water or 5% picloram (Tordon K®) mixed with 80% water to the cut stump using a paintbrush, eyedropper or small squeeze bottle. For larger specimens wipe the herbicide around the outer rim of the cut only. Also treat stems that were cut if they are to be left on the site. Apply herbicide from November to March.
  • Treat the rooted ends liberally with 5% Grazon® or 10% glyphosate.
  • Spray the foliage of the plant with a 2% solution of glyphosate, or 60 ml Grazon® per 10 L water in a backpack sprayer.
  • Effective chemicals to spray regrowth include glyphosate and metsulfuron methyl (Escort®).

4) An overall foliar spray may be appropriate. Spray the whole vine, when in full leaf, with herbicide. It is essential that the whole vine be sprayed. Follow-up by destroying any regrowth or seedlings. Replanting the area with desirable species may be appropriate.

Herbicides that may work:

  • In autumn, apply picloram or triclopyr to the base of the vine, or 2% glyphosate to the foliage of the plant.
  • Spray the foliage of the plant with a mixture of metsulfuron methyl (Escort®) at a dilution of 35 g/100 L water.
  • Amitrole (Amitrol®) and Dalapon®
  • Spray foliage with picloram or Grazon® from a backpack sprayer at 6 ml per 1 L water.

5) Seedheads can be directly targeted using a backpack sprayer with 3.5-5 g metsulfuron methyl (Escort®) with surfactant per 10 liters water. Two percent glyphosate can also be used to spray seedheads using a backpack sprayer.


1) Cut climbing vines at waist height and leave the plants to die in the trees or dispose of cuttings by burning. Leaving the vines in the tree to dry out before removing may reduce damage to the native species. Ensure that no hanging vines are in contact with the ground. Be aware that dead vines that can act as ladder fuels for fire. Expect the root system to resprout.

2) Seedlings can be dug out or hand pulled. Thick layers of litter may act as a mulch, preventing germination of the plant by moderating soil temperatures, attenuating light and aggravating soil anaerobic conditions. After treatment, plant cleared area with native plants to inhibit the germination of new seedlings and prevent invasion by other weeds.

Biological control

The use of biological control against Clematis vitalba is still in the early research phase. Some possible future biological control agents are listed below. These agents are in various stages of study for possible release.

Leaf-mining fly, Phytomyza vitalbae, immatures cause leaflet death by mining through leaf veins and disrupting the flow of nutrients.

The leaf spot fungus, Phoma clematidina, can be grown on agar plates in the laboratory and mixed with water and liberally sprayed onto infestations.

A sawfly, Monophadnus spinolae.

A bark beetle, Xylocleptes bispinus, kills the plant by feeding on the stems and under the bark.

A root-boring weevil, Hylobius transversovittatus, develops on the plant and attacks it in an early successional stage, devastating large parts of the storage tissue.


Information sources

Source document

Weed Notes: Clematis vitalba; Susan Timmins, ed. Tunyalee Martin, 2001.

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